CFA recommends freeze in face of soft economy


 By the Advocate

As the entire nation tries to deal with a struggling economy, the Mississippi Conference Council on Finance and Administration has begun taking steps to get the most out of gifts from United Methodists.

One step likely to take place is the freezing of salaries paid by the conference for 2009. That recommendation will be presented to the CF&A when it meets Jan. 15 at the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation building in Ridgeland. The recommendation comes from the new Administrative subcommittee of CF&A. Those affected by the recommendation include district superintendents, conference staff and campus ministers. Endorsing the recommendation are senior members of the conference staff, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and the district superintendents.

“CF&A will continue to provide good stewardship usage of the gracious gifts that come from the local churches” said David Stotts, conference treasurer. “CFA understands the economic situation of the conference and will be certain that spending will be kept in line with the receipts from the local churches. All of us are experiencing that in our local churches and we will do that in the conference level as we continue our shared ministry in resourcing the local churches in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

CF&A met Nov. 18 to begin dealing with the United States’ economic crisis. The salary recommendation came from a study of items that require 100 percent funding, including salaries, taxes, utilities and other contractual obligations.

The Book of Discipline, which details how the denomination will be governed, says CF&A is to include 11 lay members and 10 clergy members. The 2008-2012 CF&A has four new lay members and four new clergy members.

Also at the November meeting, CF&A began reviewing its policies. Those attending called for more emphasis on tithing and increased education about the conference budget and its process.

In addition, the Rev. Danny Rowland, CF&A chair, appointed six subcommittees to look deeper into the budget process for 2010. The subcommittees should enable CF&A members to more closely examine the conference funding plan and give a better explanation of the work being done in each area. 

The sub committees and their functions are:

• Formula — What is the fairest formula for apportioning the 2010 funding plan?      

• Budget Level — What is the dollar level of the funding plan that should be set?

• Direct Bill — How is the direct bill process starting out and what should be brought to the 2009 annual conference relative to direct bill of pensions and insurance for 2010?

• Administrative — Review the administrative elements of the funding plan and make recommendations to CF&A for 2010.

• Clergy Related Funding Plan — Review the funding plan for these related areas for recommendation to CF&A for 2010.

• Benevolence — Review the benevolence work of the annual conference and make recommendations for 2010. 

The subcommittees are expected to make their first reports at the Jan. 15 meeting.

CF&A affirmed previous instructions to Stotts to limit the spending of the committees and tables to 70 percent of the 2007 receipts until the current year receipts exceed that previous year amount. 

“One of the great gifts of the United Methodist Church is that we received money for benevolences like the camps, colleges, children’s home and community centers and the money is forwarded or turned around to them and no administrative amount is withheld.” Stotts said. “All turnaround money will continue to be forwarded monthly as has been the practice.”

In 2007, 83.75 percent of apportionments was received. As of Dec. 19, the 2008 apportionment level was 73.17 percent. The 2008 budget was 11 percent higher than the 2007 budget.

 “I am very pleased to announce that we are within $462,000 of giving to the 2008 budget as compared to budget for the complete 2007 year,” Stotts said. “Based on the receipts in the last 15 days of 2007, I believe our dollar level of giving will exceed 2007. Our gracious members are doing a great job and I am sure those gracious givers will give and enable ministry in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church to remain alive and strong.”

Byrd Bonner, director of the United Methodist Foundation, challenged the Mississippi Conference to remember this creed: Faith, not fear; abundance, not scarcity; giving, not receiving; caring, not crisis; long Term, not short term; spirituality, not materiality; grace, not greed.